Wednesday, February 2, 2011

LNG: New Developments Raise More Questions

Less than a week away from the scoping hearings for the Liberty Natural Gas Deepwater Port environmental review, new developments in the fight against this unwise, unclean, and unwanted LNG import facility have arisen.

LNG, or “liquefied natural gas,” is supercooled and compacted natural gas that can be transported in large ocean-going freighters.  It is a global commodity, but the US sits at the cheapest end of the market due to our vast domestic supplies.  Foreign LNG imports represent a tiny portion of our domestically-consumed gas, and are more expensive that the supplies that are produced by American energy firms.  For more information on LNG markets, how it is much more environmentally-unfriendly than domestic gas, and why offshore import terminals are not what we need, click here. 

Our fight over the Liberty natural gas facility took a few new turns this week:

First, COA, along with our partners the Eastern Environmental Law Center, Food and Water Watch, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Raritan Riverkeeper, battled to get public hearings for the project in the locations, towns, and counties where the actual impacts will be felt.  The environmental review hearings scheduled for next week were slated to be held in Long Branch, Edison, and Rockaway Park, NY while the facility will be located directly off the coast of Asbury Park, the pipeline will run through Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, and Carteret, and the alternatives plans will consider running the pipeline through Staten Island.  In other words, the communities most at risk have to make their way elsewhere to meaningfully participate in the federal decisionmaking.  While we have not yet had success in scheduling meetings in the affected areas, we’re not stopping our efforts.

Second, COA and our partners challenged the timeliness of the environmental review scheduled for next week.  According to the Coast Guard, the federal government does not have enough information from the Liberty Natural Gas company to move forward with the development of a “Draft Environmental Impact Statement” – yet next week’s hearings are being held so that the public can comment on this stage of review!  Given that the federal government recognizes there are deficiencies in the application, we feel that the public review of the impacts should be postponed until this new information is released.  

Third, the risk that our domestic natural gas will be exported to the highest bidder, and that our import facilities will be turned into export facilities, reached new heights.  In Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times articles, information has surfaced that most of the LNG import businesses are switching to the export business as US demand increases for gas are matched and exceeded by increased domestic production.  We don’t want to see New Jersey become the hub through which our Marcellus Shale gas reserves are sent to European, Asian, and African markets – we want to see domestic gas kept in-country. 

Fourth, and most recently, the Calgary Herald is reporting that Sonde Resources, the Canada-based owner of the Liberty Natural Gas facility is selling the project to an undisclosed investment group for $7.32 million now and $17 million more if/when LNG shipments start arriving.  After putting a $7 million price-tag on our public health and safety and the marine environment, Sonde Resources will be focusing more on their Canadian activities.  This change in ownership is important because it changes the financial security of the project, their ability to pay for environmental safeguards, the types and sources of imported LNG, and the capacity of the company to pay for and respond to any disasters or unforeseen problems.  We are still working on figuring out how this change impacts the upcoming environmental review hearings.

Scoping hearings are going on as planned and we need all the help we can at them.  Refer to other LNG blog posts here or on COA’s Twitter or Facebook pages for more information.

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